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Hepatitis disease: What you need to know about the types

By Tracy Gwambe

Added 21st July 2020 02:08 PM

Hepatitis disease: What you need to know about the types

This update comes at the hills of the World Hepatitis Day slated for July 28. 

"The theme for this year's celebrations is; "Hepatitis free future," and this is possible as we have seen in the past where Uganda became free of Chicken Pox and Polio, which became possible through administering vaccines," says Dr Alfred Driwale, the Programme Manager Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization in the Ministry of Health.

He asserts that in the same manner, Hepatitis disease may also be eradicated through similar efforts. 

What you need to know

Hepatitis disease is a viral infection that causes inflammation or swelling with the pain of the liver, a virus of different types, including; A, B, C, D and E, all of which cause different illnesses. 

The different types of Hepatitis disease which injure the liver have different routes of transmission, causing acute infections, and damage of the liver. 

About Hepatitis A

It is caused by eating and drinking contaminated food or water as well as eating uncooked or row food. 

Signs of Hepatitis A include; Yellow discolouration of the skin and eyes, dark urine, extreme body weakness, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. 

It can be treated by rehydrating and self-limiting hence no need for medication. Hepatitis A can be prevented by washing hands frequently with clean water and soap, cooking food well before eating it, as well as washing fruits before eating. 

Hepatitis B

This type is transmitted through contact with blood or body fluids of an infected person, sharing sharp objects like needles, razor blades or toothbrushes and the signs are those similar to Hepatitis A. 

Vaccination for Hepatitis B is available for children in the routine immunization programme at 6, 10 and 14 weeks, as well as for adults who test negative. 

Hepatitis B can be treated beginning with regular monitoring tests for signs of liver diseases, asking one's doctor to assess and decide on whether treatment should be given and regular monitoring. (Hepatitis B treatment is chronic care).

Hepatitis C

This is transmitted through contact with blood or body fluids of an infected person, sharing sharp objects like needles, razor blades or toothbrushes and some of the signs are similar to those for Hepatitis A and B. With Hepatitis C, an infected mother can pass the virus to her baby during childbirth.  

There is no virus for Hepatitis C but if found positive, a patient is advised to see their medical doctor to assess and decide on how the treatment is given. 

Hepatitis D

Transmission of this type occurs to those who are already infected with Hepatitis B, with the mode of transmission being the same. 

Signs that one is infected with Hepatitis D are similar to those of Hepatitis A, B and C, and once one is vaccinated for Hepatitis B, they cannot get infected with Hepatitis D. 

Hepatitis E

This is a type that is transmitted through eating and drinking contaminated foods or water and uncooked or raw vegetables, and for one to know that they are infected, they would have signs like; yellow discolouration of the eyes, dark urine, extreme body weakness, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. 

There is no vaccine for Hepatitis E but its treatment is through supportive management of the disease between the patient and medical personnel. 

Hepatitis E can be prevented through vaccination (however, this vaccine is not available in Uganda), washing of hands with clean water and soap, proper disposal of faecal matter, cooking food well before eating, and washing fruits thoroughly before eating.

For Hepatitis B, C and D, in addition to the acute damage caused, the illness progresses to chronic foam (long-lasting damage.) 

"Chronic Hepatitis may grow to cause major malfunctioning of the liver; liver cirrhosis, where the liver dries up, liver failure, where many functions of the liver cannot function, including clotting, and liver cancer, where one gets abnormal growth of liver cells which also ultimately result into the malfunctioning of the liver, with potential to spread," says Dr Driwale. 

He goes ahead to explain that once the virus types gain access to the liver, they cause an immediate injury to it. Types B and C show the chronic manifestation of Hepatitis disease, which will progress to cause liver cirrhosis (drying of the liver) where one gets abnormal growth in the liver substance. 

The seriousness of Hepatitis B disease in Uganda

Dr Driwale says, "Globally, 257 million people are living with chronic hepatitis, and viral hepatitis is the leading cause of death worldwide, with over 1 million deaths annually. 

"According to a study which was done in Uganda, the prevalence of Hepatitis B infection was found to stand at 4.3%, meaning, of every 100 Ugandans, about 5 are infected with Hepatitis disease," says Dr Driwale, adding that the Northern part of the country has higher prevalence while the Southern part of the country and western, have the lowest prevalence. 

"If we control Hepatitis B, then we would have reduced the burden of cancer and going to the cancer institute, by 100s of numbers," he says. 

"The slow uptake of testing and available vaccination services are some of the challenges being faced by the Ministry of Health when it comes to stemming the disease," Dr Driwale says. 

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